SYNOPSIS - PARDES
("ABROAD")

Warning: This film enthusiastically espouses the view that America is the Great Satan. That said, it does star Shahrukh Khan!

  1. Kishori Lal, AKA Kishore, is a wealthy Indian expatriate returning to India for the first time in ten years. He deeply loves his homeland, and explains to a bunch of white tourists (who are supposedly American) that in India, love is all about giving, unlike in America, where love is about give and take.   He meets up with close friend Surajdev, AKA Suraj, and is invited back to Suraj's farmhouse near Dehra Dun. There, his early arrival startles Suraj's family. Suraj's daughter, Ganga, AKA Kusum, (MAHIMA CHOUDHARY) is delighted to regale Kishore with stories about his escapades with Suraj when they were younger.

  2. A neighboring family is irritated by the warm welcome Suraj's family extends to Kishore. Weight-lifter Manu doesn't understand why they don't show the same respect to his father, Amirchand, who is also an NRI. Amirchand's wife Bhagyashree seconds the complaint. Amirchand assures her that Suraj will come groveling to propose a wedding between Ganga and Manu. Bhagyashree suggests he press the issue now. 

  3. Back at the ranch, Amirchand shows up to meet fellow NRI Kishore. Turns out that Amirchand has lived abroad in...Sri Lanka. Amirchand is upset that they weren't invited; the womenfolk tell him to settle down and come on in. Meanwhile, Ganga has been snooping around during her Happy Homemaker cleaning of Kishore's clothing; she has found a note from some guy named Arjun with instructions on what medicine and food Kishore should take. She gives him the mediciine, and Kishore tells her that Arjun is the son of an old female friend of his. Arjun is a talented songwriter whose song "I Love India" is one of Kishore's favorites. He also takes close care of Kishore, who in return calls Arjun "my little master."

  4. The kids decide to impress Kishore so he'll take them to the USA. (SONG: I LOVE INDIA) 

  5. Kishore asks Suraj for Ganga's hand in marriage for his own son, Rajiv. Rajiv, he explains, is adrift, having lost his mother three years back. But while Rajiv has never seen India, Kishore assures Suraj that his son has a lot of respect for Indian culture. As well, NRIs need girls like Ganga to keep the culture alive.   

  6. The womenfolk aren't happy at the idea of marrying Ganga to an American. She hasn't even been allowed to travel to Delhi; now Suraj wants to send her across the world? However, Ganga's degree is in English, and as one aunty points out, India itself is increasingly Westernized, what with Michael Jackson playing 24/7 on TV. Suraj doesn't want debate: he's made his decision; Ganga will marry his best friend's son!     

  7. Ganga's brother brings her photos of Rajiv's family, but they don't know which of the two young men is Rajiv. She has to guess.

  8. Back in the States, Kishore's mother expresses doubts about trying to bring the pure Ganga (pun: Ganga is Hindi for the River Ganges) into the dirty filthy heathen USA! Kishore assures her that he's doing it for the sake of the next generation, which otherwise would surely lose touch with their culture. His sister-in-law Neeta doesn't think Rajiv'll agree to it, but Kishore says he will, with Arjun's help.

  9. Arjun (SHAHRUKH KHAN) is interviewed about his hit single "I Love India." He talks about his past: orphaned at age ten, taken in by Kishore, who was like a father to him. Kishore brought him to the USA, where he worked in a garage and as a taxi driver until Kishore made him the manager of a garage. When K. found out Arjun liked to sing, he converted the garage into a makeshift music studio, so now Arjun rehearses and records there when not fixing the cars. Arjun adds that he hasn't been back to India in five years, but his dream is to return to his hometown of Mathura and open a music school for poor kids. The interview is interrupted by a phone call from Kishore, summoning him to the office. He gently declines the interviewer's last question, saying that Kishore is more important to him than anything — even himself.

  10. Kishore asks Arjun to convince Rajiv to consider marriage to Ganga. 

  11. Arjun goes by Rajiv's office. Rajiv says he's resigned about having to go to India and look at Ganga, but what's important is that Kishore has given him the option to decline the match. They, along with a friend, purchase tickets to India (pausing for a short promotional speech about the film's sponsor?).

  12. In Delhi, Rajiv sends Arjun ahead to look at Ganga. Arjun, immersed in his role as matchmaker, announces that changes will have to be made ASAP to impress Rajiv: all the animals will have to be removed, including the dog, and the charpoy (bedframe) is going to have to go as well. Nor can the servant sleep outside — build him an outhouse or something. Ganga isn't impressed by this haughty stranger. She and her siblings plot his comeuppance.

  13. Arjun meets "Ganga." Panicked, he tries to put a call through to Kishore.

  14. Later, Arjun apologizes to Ganga for his behavior and they become friends. Ganga promptly brings back all the animals, saying, "Every relationship in this household is one of love, whether animal and human or master and servant. We do not break old relationships to make new ones." 

  15. When the kids get taken to task for their trick, Arjun steps in, appeasing Suraj's anger. He then tells Ganga, "Think whatever you like about me, but remember this: Rajiv is the best guy in the whole world — he'll come to you in grand style, like an American Raj Kumar [old Indian movie star]!"

  16. Rajiv makes his grand entrance.

  17. Party to welcome Rajiv, who experiences some language difficulties. News that he has been struck with the evil eye moves a priest to remove it in an unusual way. Arjun goes to find Ganga, and is shocked: she looks way too Indian to appeal to Rajiv. He "fixes" her.

  18. Later, Rajiv refuses to say whether he likes her. However, when Arjun jokingly says he might be out for a wife, Rajiv hints that maybe he shouldn't look to Ganga. Ganga's dad tricks out of her an admission of her own interest. Amarchand, upset that he wasn't invited to the party, vows revenge.

  19. Rajiv asks Ganga to meet him privately, out in the fields. Ganga asks permission from her mother, who starts a ruckus about how girls from their family do not roll around in the fields with boys before they're married! Later, Arjun cajoles the family into accepting that Rajiv is American and in America they do things differently, and that the family needs to give Rajiv and Ganga some time to talk alone together. The family plans a picnic to give them some time to hang out.

  20. Arjun tries to convince Ganga that Rajiv's rudeness is actually his own way of wooing her. Ganga doesn't buy it. She says to Arjun, "We've become great friends, yes? So tell me truly, is Rajiv right for me?" She produces a pack of cigarettes she's found in Rajiv's jacket. "What bothers me is not that he smokes, but that he hid it from me. Honestly, does he have other vices he's hiding from me? You have to tell me, Arjun, so I can make a sound decision about him. Your advice can make my life, or destroy it." Arjun says they're not Rajiv's cigarettes, that Rajiv doesn't even drink. Actually, they belong to him. Ganga tells him to quit the filthy habit, and he throws away the cigarettes and says, "Okay, I've quit."

  21. Rajiv and Ganga grow closer. (SONG: DO DIL MIL RAHE HAIN)

  22. Rajiv says yes to the marriage, on one condition: that Ganga come to the States for a month or two beforehand, to see if she can hack it. The womenfolk are outraged that Suraj would accept such an offer: this is a small town; people will talk if she goes off without even getting engaged! And horror of horrors, what if she comes back unmarried? Kishore solves the problem by offering to get them engaged before Ganga leaves for the USA; also, to bring Ganga's aunt as chaperone. Ganga, meanwhile, is sad at the idea of leaving home forever.

  23. When he receives the engagement card, Amarchand springs his revenge, accusing Suraj in front of the whole village of betraying his promise to wed Ganga to Manu. Suraj steadfastly maintains that he never made any such promise, but Amirchand's accusations enrage Kishore, who accepts Amirchand's challenge to a Kabaddi contest for Ganga's hand: if Manu's team wins, he will marry Ganga!

  24. Engagement ceremony and leavetaking. At the airport, Ganga is appalled when she learns that Arjun is staying behind to begin work on the music school. She says to him: "This isn't right! My first time going abroad, and I'm going alone?" Arjun: "Not alone; with Rajiv! And Kishore, and your aunt! My responsibility and my work ends here. Now your life and mine are separate, understand?" Ganga is shocked and angered by his cruelty, but after boarding the plane she sends him a rose and a card that says: Come quickly!

  25.  Supposedly in the USA (actually, Canada — hmm, does the director subscribe to the 51st state theory?): Ganga's aunty is shocked at the Americans' clothing. Rajiv's moves on the dance floor put Ganga off joining him (us too). When Ganga gets into the spirit of things, her aunt pitches a public fit: "You shameless girl! Sticking so closely with these whites! Forgotten what family you're from?" (Let the xenophobia begin!) Rajiv's aunty Neeta is contemptuous: "Kishore went to India for a girl, and brought us some real cow shit."

  26. Ganga gets encouragement from her grandmother-to-be: "Here it's either very quiet or very loud; a man is either alone or in the middle of a crowd. I heard what Neeta said last night at that party." Ganga: "My aunt was wrong too." Grandma: "In Kishore's house, half are Indian and half are Western. You'll have to endure their scorn; this will be your trial by fire." Kishore shows up to announce a ceremony tomorrow honoring the new Indian Ambassador as well as Rajiv and Ganga's engagement. Ganga's upset that Arjun still hasn't arrived.

  27. At the ceremony, Ganga breaks off in mid-song to dash out to greet latecomer Arjun, who is embarrassed by the scene she's causing.

  28. "The city's biggest paper" — apparently the New York Times — gives front-page treatment to Ganga's wedding announcement. Yet somehow they're going to Hollywood tomorrow. Anyway, Neeta and Arjun aren't coming; apparently Arjun told Rajiv by phone that he wouldn't be able to make it. Rajiv tries to get Ganga to give him a kiss before he goes. Ganga later asks an aunty whether Arjun lives in the house. "Here? This is the main house, not the servants' quarters! He takes care of our cars and lives above the garage. He eats in a hotel or something, but when he comes here, we do feed him, same way we feed the poor." Ganga, appalled, has parathas sent to Arjun at the garage, where his friends titter over the letter enclosed. Arjun reminds them that she is marrying Rajiv. "But she's not married to him yet," a friend reminds him. Arjun notices what the parathas have been wrapped in: he holds up the wedding announcement.

  29. Rajiv is enraged that Ganga has lost the wedding announcement. "You tossed out my prestige and honor along with the parathas!" Arjun interrupts the fight: "Silly Ganga, you didn't tell him you'd sent it to me so I could get it framed?"  

  30. At a nightclub. Ganga is infuriated (with Arjun) to see that Rajiv does, in fact, smoke — and drink, too! She asks if he'll play with her in the disco's "Couple Made in Heaven" contest. Rajiv says it's a child's game and she should play it with Arjun. She refuses, and Arjun says he'll dance with Rajiv's friend Kelly instead. Ganga instantly changes her mind and agrees to play with him. They win, but victory is spoiled by a very drunk Rajiv demanding to be served another drink and threatening to buy the whole place if he's refused. Arjun forces him out, and Ganga overhears one employee telling another, "It's always the same old thing; he gets drunk and Arjun takes him home."

  31. Ganga pretends to talk to her family photos. She says she's not sure if she's happy abroad; there's everything here — and at the same time, nothing at all. Later, cleaning Rajiv's room, she finds photographs of him with Kelly, the girl from the disco the night before. Rajiv's aunt Neeta tells her Kelly was his girlfriend, and that the two loved each other very much. Ganga: "But he never told me!" Neeta: "Why would he? Girlfriends are the obligatory trophies of rich men. Count yourself lucky that you got him, and not Kelly. You'll get Kishori Lal's $500 million." Ganga starts crying, and Neeta snaps, "Don't cry. Rajiv is American, so with an American you'll have to stay."

  32. Ganga confronts Rajiv about Kelly. He says that he loved her a lot, wanted to marry her, and, at Ganga's prompting, admits that they had a physical relationship. "American girlfriends do this. Why make such a fuss? She was my yesterday and you're my today." The phone rings: it's Kelly on the other end, calling before she leaves for a trip. Rajiv agrees to meet her for dinner at his office. He then tells Ganga not to wait up for him. He takes off as Arjun enters into the room, and Ganga explodes at her hypocritical matchmaker. "You're responsible for this, you and your lies!" She shows him the photos. Arjun: "You'll just have to adjust to these small matters." Ganga: "This is a small matter? Look, I don't want a golden palache, I just want the love of a man. Do you understand? Small matter!" Arjun: "Everyone loves you here!" Ganga: "No they don't! And I don't want that kind of love!" Arjun: "Then what kind do you want?" Ganga: "Ask yourself! The type you give to others! Thinking I'm some simple picture, you've trapped me in a golden frame. And you want me to stay quietly on the wall and become a part of this false place! This is not the dream with which I came here!" Arjun: "Look, Ganga, it'll all be OK. I'll talk to Rajiv myself. But Ganga, you too will have to take things patiently." Ganga: "Arjun — you won't leave me too, will you?"

  33. Arjun tells Rajiv it'd be best if he change Ganga slowly, because the culture shock is too much for a smalltown Indian girl. Rajiv says, "Look. You're my friend and she's my wife. Let the two remain separate. Don't interfere in our personal matters. Your role of friend ends here. Let me do my own thing."

  34. Arjun's friend tells him that whether he accepts it or not, he's fallen in love. Arjun is appalled. He vows not to go over to the house or meet Ganga again. 

  35. This news does not sit well with Ganga. "Fine then, I don't care about him either!" Arjun's friend assures her, "He does care for you." Ganga: "If he did, he'd answer my calls!"

  36. When Ganga learns it's Arjun's birthday and he's closeted himself away from everybody, she gets concerned and plans a birthday surprise for him. Rajiv won't go: "In America, when people want to be left alone, we leave them alone." Ganga: "But in India we never leave our friends alone. Rather we break down doors to wish them well on special occasions. Anyway, think of all he's done for you!" Rajiv: "Not for me, for Dad. He does it all to impress Dad. I've gotta go to another party. If you want to go to Arjun's, go with Paul. Take any old thing from around the house for a gift."

  37. Ganga arrives at Arjun's. (SONG: KISI ROZ TUM SE ) Neeta calls, demanding to know when she'll be home. Ganga's confused: "It's Arjun's birthday — and anyway, I asked Rajiv's permission before coming!" Neeta: "I'm asking you for the last time: are you coming home or not?" Ganga: "No!"

  38. Arjun agrees to play the guitar at a party thrown by Rajiv. At the party, however, he can't bear the sight of Ganga being teased by a stranger. Gets into a fight. After, when Arjun tells Rajiv that the man went for her chunni, Rajiv is unsympathetic: "It's my job to look after her — whose fiancee is she? Mine, or yours? Aunt Neets was right, you little people shouldn't be invited to grand parties."

  39. Neeta hints to Kishore that Arjun and Ganga have an inappropriately close relationship.

  40. Kishore tells Arjun that he's been selected as the president of the LA Car Company. He'll get shares in the company, his own house, and a car! But he has to leave tomorrow morning at 5am, to make the first board meeting.

  41. Ganga learns of his disappearance; he hasn't even told his friends where he's going. Later she talks on the phone with her parents in India, but can't quite convince them she's as happy as she says she is.

  42. Kishore confronts her about not knowing where her engagement ring is. He found it by the pool. Demands she put it on and reminds her of the promise she made to him. "You are your parents' joy and our future. I know Rajiv is difficult, but get to know his American ways and then change him." Rajiv enters to tell his dad he's heading to Las Vegas for a friend's wedding. Kishore tells him to apologize to Ganga for his behavior and, of course, take her along with him. Rajiv shrugs and obeys, and Kishore tells Ganga, "See how soft-hearted he is!"

  43. Arjun makes his way to LA (SONG: YEH DIL DEEWANA). Meanwhile, Rajiv tries to get intimate before the wedding, arguing that they're getting married in just ten days. Ganga argues back that ten days isn't much time to wait. He points out that all his other friends are having a fine time behind closed doors with their girlfriends. "They're Western, Rajiv, and we're Indian! Our culture doesn't approve of such a relationship between unmarried people!" Rajiv loses it. "You bloody Indians are the biggest hypocrites — mention sex and you start moaning and wailing; guys and girls are kept separate; women have a separate society; but you hold the world record for having kids. You, your mother and father, your whole household are illiterate villagers. And your India's nothing but shit, and it stinks like cow shit too!" Ganga breaks the engagement, insulting the United States in turn as depraved and drug-ridden. He slaps her, and they fight.

  44. Ganga runs away. Rajiv lies and says she took off while he was sleeping. Kishore contacts the police commissioner. Arjun finds out and asks his friends to look for her. A truck driver who gave her a ride tells them that he dropped her at the train station. Arjun finds her, and wants her to come home to Kishore's. She refuses; she's sworn an oath on it; she's going back to India! But if he wants to go back to Kishore's fine, go then! She stomps off and promptly encounters yet another evil of the depraved, drug-ridden United States: goons with strange European accents. (On the bright side, at least they're a diverse pair.) Convinced that she is indeed unable to move about without a man, she runs back to Arjun.

  45. Kishore is infuriated when he learns that Arjun has taken Ganga back to India. Assumes that Neeta was right, and they are involved romantically. Meanwhile, Ganga doesn't tell her parents the whole story about what happened, but is distraught enough to make her mother stop Suraj from phoning them. "They are dead to us, and we to them!"

  46. Rajiv, "betrayed" by both Arjun and Ganga, vows to get her back — books tickets to India for his whole posse.

  47. Suraj talks to Kishore on the phone and hears his side of the story. Suraj then promptly tries to kill Arjun for seducing his daughter. When Ganga intervenes, protesting that Arjun is her savior, Suraj turns his wrath on her: "Better for you to have returned on your funeral bier than like this!" He tries to kill her with his sword. Arjun stops him: "My blood will run before hers, and it will say that Ganga is as pure as the Ganges." He leaves only on the promise that Suraj won't hurt Ganga and that he himself won't ever come back. Ganga tells her dad that Arjun is blameless, but her father says he won't believe anything she says; she has betrayed him, forgotten and destroyed the family honor. He locks her up and tells her to die. (Bet America's looking pretty good right now, huh, Ganga?)

  48. Arjun has missed the Mathura bus. Meanwhile, Ganga assures her siblings that there was no relationship between her and Arjun. "Then change that, didi!" her sisters encourage her. "He alone loves you truly, not Rajiv. Arjun has the song of the true Indian in his heart!" Ganga's grandmother agrees; he's a blessing and she must stop him from leaving!

  49. Arjun is waiting for the bus at... Fatehpur Sikhri??? Anyway. (SONG: NAHIN HONA THA) Arjun, espying Ganga, tells her to stop and go home. Ganga: "I will go. Just say once that you don't love me." Arjun: "No, I don't love you." (Why does everyone always think this will work???!!!???) Ganga: "Yes you do!" Arjun: "Ganga, this isn't right!" Ganga: "Fine, why don't you love me then?" Arjun: "I don't! So go back!"

  50. Too late: Arjun is ambushed by a bloodthirsty group of Rajiv's cronies. Kishore comes upon the scene. He tells Arjun: "I have a gun in my pocket and the bullet will target you, or me. I trusted you. Gave you everything. Tell me what the truth is." Arjun replies: "You don't want to know the truth. People who want to know the truth don't carry a gun in their pocket and hate in their hearts. It takes great courage, great heart to hear the turth. And this is the truth: that when a man becomes big with wealth and power, he grows distant from truth and reality. He thinks that whatever he thinks, is in fact the truth; that whatever he does is right. And that's what's happened to you. You made it big in America, but with respect to yourself, you stayed small. Because the truth is, you lied to yourself. You lied that an Indian girl like Ganga could marry a foreigner like him. And you made me lie too. I lied and lied for you — he's a good boy, doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, son of a great rich Indian man. He's a son, all right, but he's not Indian. And the truth is, that I always lied to Ganga." Kishore just wants to know, "What's your relationship to Ganga?" Arjun: "One of trust. Respect. Worship. And love. If protecting her is love, then yes, it is! It is, it's love! And always will be. But I never tried to get her for myself. And I won't now either, becauce [even though she's a thinking intelligent college graduate,] she's [inexplicably still] yours. And her father's. Her mother's. I'll go now, never to return." He leaves, and Ganga steps forward. "Now hear my truth as well. You want to see what your son did in a Vegas hotel room behind closed doors to me?" She exposes her wounds. "Look! What sort of culture is it when a fiance does this to his future wife? Even so, if you say I should throw myself into fire to burn, I will. Because you're my parents, deciders of my fate. I'll even drink poision." Grandma [thankfully] steps forward. "Why? Why should you drink poision? Women have always done it, listening first to their parents, then to their husbands, then, at last, to their children. You won't drink poison! Why should Ganga go to a foreign land where there's nothing for her?" Kishore: "She will go abroad! I said I'd make her my son's wife, and I mean to keep my vow!" Huge, tense silence. Then he adds, "She'll marry Arjun!" Happy ever after as Ganga happily hugs her father, the man who only hours before tried to kill her and then told her to die. Well, that's the "family honor" for ya, folks!

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